Thyroid Cancer: Questions to Ask the Health Care Team

Approved by the Lineagotica Editorial Board, 11/2017

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some questions to ask your doctor or other members of your health care team, to help you better understand your diagnosis, treatment plan, and overall care. Use the menu to see other pages.

Talking often with your health care team is important to make informed decisions about your health care. These suggested questions are a starting point to help you learn more about your cancer care and treatment. You are also encouraged to ask additional questions that are important to you. You may want to print this list and bring it to your next appointment, or download Lineagotica’s free mobile app for a digital list and other interactive tools to manage your care.

Questions to ask after getting a diagnosis

  • What type of thyroid cancer do I have?

  • Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me?

  • What is the stage of the cancer? What does this mean?

  • If MTC is diagnosed, do I need a genetic test? Why or why not? Should family members be tested?

Questions to ask about choosing a treatment and managing side effects

  • What are my treatment options?

  • What clinical trials are available for me? Where are they located, and how do I find out more about them?

  • What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?

  • What is the goal of each treatment? Is it to eliminate the cancer, help me feel better, or both?

  • What experience do you have in treating this type of thyroid cancer?

  • Where can I get a second opinion?

  • Do I need to make a treatment decision right away?

  • What are the possible side effects of each treatment, both in the short term and the long term?

  • Who will be part of my health care team, and what does each member do?

  • Who will be leading my overall treatment?

  • Will any of these treatments cause hypothyroidism? If so, what can I expect during this time?

  • How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, or perform my usual activities?

  • Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?

  • Could this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have children? If so, should I talk with a fertility specialist before cancer treatment begins?

  • If I’m worried about the costs of cancer care, who can help me?

  • What support services are available to me? To my family?

  • Whom should I call with questions or problems?

Questions to ask about surgery

  • Is surgery recommended? If so, how much of my thyroid gland will be removed? Will lymph nodes be removed as well? What type of scar can I expect?

  • Do I need other tests, such as an ultrasound, before surgery to determine the extent of the cancer?

  • How experienced is the surgeon in this type of surgery? How many thyroid surgeries does the surgeon do per week? How many years has the surgeon been performing thyroid surgery?

  • What complications and outcomes have other patients had after being treated by this surgeon?

  • How long will the operation take? How long will I be in the hospital for the surgery?

  • Can you describe what my recovery from surgery will be like?

  • Will I need to take thyroid hormone pills before and/or after this surgery? If so, for how long?

Questions to ask about radioactive iodine treatment (I-131)

  • Is radioactive iodine treatment recommended? Why or why not? If so, can you describe this procedure to me?

  • Are there precautions I should take after having this treatment?

  • Will I need to follow a low-iodine diet? If so, when and for how long?

  • What are the possible side effects of this treatment, in the short term and over time?

  • What can be done to relieve the side effects?

Questions to ask about having other treatments, such as targeted therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy

  • What type of treatment is recommended?

  • What is the goal of this treatment?

  • How long will I have this treatment?

  • What side effects can I expect during treatment?

  • What are the possible long-term effects of having this treatment?

  • What can be done to relieve the side effects?

Questions ask about planning follow-up care

  • What is the chance that the cancer will come back? Should I watch for specific signs or symptoms?

  • What long-term side effects or late effects are possible based on the cancer treatment I received?

  • If I need to take thyroid hormone replacement, how often do I need my dose checked through blood tests?

  • What follow-up tests will I need, and how often will I need them?

  • Will I need to stop taking thyroid hormone replacement for these tests? If so, for how long and what can I expect during this time?

  • How do I get a treatment summary and survivorship care plan to keep in my personal records? 

  • Who will be leading my follow-up care?

  • What survivorship support services are available to me? To my family?

The next section in this guide is Additional Resources. It offers some more resources on this website beyond this guide that may be helpful to you. You may use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.